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Iran Sanctions Kill Innocent People

Jamal Abdi and Ryan Costello remind us that the Trump administration is choking off humanitarian trade with Iran:

To avoid similar situations in the future, Congress enshrined into law carve-outs to protect humanitarian trade within every sanctions regime. The Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancements Act of 2000 specifically states that sanctions cannot be used to target humanitarian goods unless they involve entities subject to counterterrorism efforts.

Why does all this matter? Because the Trump administration has now eviscerated these carve-outs and is imposing a sanctions regime that is now almost identical to the ’90s Iraq-style sanctions. By implementing terrorism sanctions on a massive economic institution like the Central Bank of Iran, the Trump administration has exploited a loophole in the 2000 law to deliberately target humanitarian aid. Prior to this move, the Iranian people at least had an avenue, however small, to procure vital basic necessities. That avenue has now been shut [bold mine-DL].

So, despite claims by the administration that it is fighting for the Iranian people, its increasingly sinister sanctions regime will do nothing but harm the most vulnerable Iranians.

The U.S. was already waging a severe economic war on the Iranian people prior to this designation, and the designation has removed any remaining pretense that the sanctions are not aimed at hurting the people. The Trump administration has been strangling Iranians for more than a year, and with the added sanctions they have just tightened their grip and started squeezing even harder. The Iranian people can see what is being done to them, and the vast majority believes the sanctions are intended to block humanitarian trade. That is not just their perception. It is a fact. The medicine shortages caused by the sanctions are very real:

Dr. Ghader Daemi Aghdam, an Iranian pharmacist in Tehran, said in June that “out of every 20 people, we have to tell at least 10 that we have run out of medications they need.” In other words, sick men, women and children are going without vital medicine.

It is no wonder that Iranian public opinion has turned sharply against the U.S. in the last two years. If a foreign government were effectively blockading your country and preventing your countrymen from receiving the medicine and treatment they need for their illnesses, you would presumably have a similarly dim view of the people responsible. The sanctions are harming and killing innocent Iranians right now, and they are poisoning U.S.-Iranian relations for years and possibly decades to come. A new generation of Iranians is growing up under our government’s policy of destructive collective punishment. That will affect Iranian politics in the future, but it will not be in the way that the economic war supporters expect.

Depriving sick people of their medicine and driving up food prices by preventing the delivery of food shipments are cruel and outrageous tactics that only cause more misery and hardship for tens of millions of people. The U.S. has tremendous financial power, and it is recklessly abusing that power at the expense of innocent people. The next administration needs to put a stop to this, and as a country we have to renounce the use of these tactics from now on.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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